Amar Haat Bandhibi: A Translation

Call me quaint, but Radha is one of those metaphors that never fail to move me no matter how cliched. In a way, she is such a primal symbol of love; a love so pure and all-consuming even a god couldn’t handle its weight and had to run away. Radha is what remains when we strip our tepid, little loves of all the adornment and paraphernalia of romance. Radha is the heart of the heart of it all; a love without uncertainty, without fear, without even a need for reciprocity. 

I first heard this song from Shantanu Dutta, musicologist and a dear friend, sitting on a terrace washed in moonlight. It remains one of the most profound experiences of my life. Shantanu collected this traditional song from an unknown woman at a village in India’s Murshidabad district. It speaks in the voice of Radha, and it speaks of a love that is unshackled by any mortal bounds.

আমার হাত বান্ধিবি পা বান্ধিবি                                            Bar my arms and bar my legs
মন বান্ধিবি কেমনে?                                                          But how will you bar my heart?

আমার চোখ বান্ধিবি মুখ বান্ধিবি                                         Bar my eyes and bar my mouth
পরাণ বান্ধিবি কেমনে?                                                       But how will you bar my soul?

আমি না গেলাম যমুনার ঘাটে                                               I won’t go to the Jamunaa if you say,
না তুলিলাম জল                                                                 I won’t go to fetch water
না হেরিলাম তারে সখী                                                        I won’t try to see him if you say,
না হইলাম চঞ্চল।                                                               I won’t be restless.

আমার ইচ্ছা বান্ধিবি সোহাগ বান্ধিবি                                    Bar my desires and bar my caresses,
অনুরাগ বান্ধিবি কেমনে?                                                   But how will you bar my affection?

আমি না দিলাম কুলিতে কালি                                             I will not besmirch my kin if you say,
কলঙ্কেরই জ্বালা                                                                I will not bring shame upon them
না হয় হইল সে মোরই                                                      Let it adorn me alone if you say,
অঙ্গেরই মালা                                                                 I will wear it like a wreath.

আমার ঘর বান্ধিবি পথ বান্ধিবি                                        Bar my home and bar my roads,
কপাল বান্ধিবি কেমনে?                                                   But how will you bar my fate?

Sahana Bajpaie has rendered this song beautifully in a recent video, and I was delighted to find she learnt it from the same source as me. Do give it a listen while you read the translation; much of the lyricality gets lost without the natural lilt and music of the Bengali language, and that’s such a shame. You can listen to the song here.

The accompanying image is a painting from the ‘Probaho’ series by Koustabh Chakraborty. 


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